REEL Review – Justice League: Snyder Cut (2021)

Director: Zack Snyder | 4h 2mins | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

In order to stop the impending doom on it’s way to earth, and to keep the promise he kept to Superman, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) creates a team of superheroes to protect the planet.

The 2017 version of Justice League, in which Joss Whedon took over late in production, was a farce. It was a conflicting mesh of ideas that felt rushed in a bid to match the monumental success Marvel were having with their cinematic universe. But, thanks to a fanbase push we now finally get to see just what Zack Snyder envisioned in a 4-hour chaptered epic that now rests as the longest superhero movie to date. 

To many, the Snyder Cut will be the epitome of the superhero genre. Across it’s 4 hours it balances storytelling, character build, fan service and action – pacing it far better than the original ever did in it’s 2 hour runtime. But, the film isn’t without it’s faults regardless of the slicker visuals and updated depth. For one, as grand as the Snyder Cut is it can’t help but feel bloated at times, falling into the trap of meaningless throwaway scenes and even the added build of characters like The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are uncomfortably awkward in execution. 

The story hasn’t changed but rather expanded. The villain Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), while looking far more imposing in his shimmering metal armour, becomes more of a lackey to the ‘bigger picture’ villain Darkseid – much in the same way Loki and Ronan were powerful lackey’s to Thanos. The film is very often setting things up for a potential future instead of feeling restrained by it’s numerous paths and although nothing may come of Snyder’s version, it definitely feels like a film existing in the realm of a cinematic universe rather than the unholy mess of bland interactions between existing characters. 

While it’s fun to see Jason Momoa soaring through the air and launching his weapon through enemies in super slow-mo, it isn’t entertaining to watch the same pace given to menial reaction shots. 

If you’ve seen Batman vs. Superman (2016) or any other work from Snyder you’ll know what his style entails. Snyder’s brooding and slow-motion style is on full show, not just in the action scenes but the film interjects it into moments of reflection and reaction and while the film’s more meditative style definitely suits Snyder’s trademarks you can’t help but think that without it, the film would have been considerably less exhausting to get through. While it’s fun to see Jason Momoa soaring through the air and launching his weapon through enemies in super slow-mo, it isn’t entertaining to watch the same pace given to menial reaction shots. 

One thing that is incredibly important for Snyder to do is to improve the relationships and depth of all the characters. While none of the performances are particularly inspired (they feel like deflated versions of the standalone films we’ve already seen), the friendship and comradery is far more improved. Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher) is much more integral to the plot because the film spends time building backstory and fragility. The Flash (played by a hyperactive Ezra Miller) earns his zippy personality because of the time spent with him, despite having an excruciatingly awkward opening scene. It’s one of the best things to come from the Snyder Cut, being able to pace itself enough to feel like a film with multiple protagonists rather than Batman and his friends. 

For all it’s balance and weaving parts the Snyder Cut is able to keep you hooked with it’s chaptered structure. Separated into six chapters – and an epilogue that really stretches the fan service – the film is able to keep a sense of direction while also giving the film a sense of it’s ‘epicness’. In the early chapters we see layer after layer of character work and later on, when the action begins to brim, we have huge dedicated portions to entertainment that definitely feel larger because of the build. The film never fully proves it’s worth as a 4-hour thrill ride, but it certainly tries it’s best to keep you engaged during its journey.

The appeal of a superhero film even more ‘epic’ than The Avengers: Endgame (2019) may only suit fans of the genre, but Zack Snyder’s vision of The Justice League deserves credit for its pacing and reconfiguration. It’s just a crying shame that, despite all the rejigging and newfound consistency, the film still can’t shake some of the underwhelming features of the 2017 theatrical cut and if you’re going to make a film 4 hours long, you better make sure it feels worth the time. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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